Last Updated on May 17, 2022 by Thalia
My blog posts are usually influenced by my mood or what is currently going on in my life behind the scenes.
And I’ve wanted to write about how to cope with seasonal depression for a while now.
If you’re an OG reader, you’ll know that I really struggled with the winter blues last year. It was really hard for me to stay my usual positive and motivated self, especially during the long winter lockdown.
This year though, I am currently living in Greece and experiencing a warmer winter which has been extremely beneficial to my mood.
But I thought it would still be useful and practical for me to write about seasonal depression as so many people suffer from low moods during winter.
So this blog post is inspired by a previous experience I had with seasonal depression and how I was able to cope.
Table of Contents
- The winter blues
- What is seasonal depression?
- Symptoms of seasonal depression
10 ways to cope with seasonal depression and ease low moods during winter
- 1. Switch up your daily routine each season
- 2. Move your body
- 3. Keep a journal and practice gratitude
- 4. Take advantage of the daylight and get outside
- 5. Dedicate time to doing your favourite things
- 6. Eat nourishing, well-balanced meals
- 7. Connect and spend time with loved ones
- 8. Book a vacation!
- 9. Buy a sunrise alarm clock
- 10. Ask for support
- Final thoughts
The winter blues
The beginning of a new year can sometimes feel lonely and stressful.
Maybe you had a particularly bad holiday season or year and you’re still coming to terms with that. Or you’re worried about what a new year might bring, especially now when we are all faced with so much uncertainty.
Maybe you’ve spent the entire festive season rushed off your feet and catering to others that now you just feel exhausted and fed up.
Or the cold, winter weather is just dampening your mood.
Maybe the online noise is also affecting you.
Everywhere you look on social media is another “best moments of 2021” post, people talking about how much money they made, others asking what your goals are for next year and of course, the “new year new me” bullshit.
It can be overwhelming AF.
And the reason why I like to take a big step back from social media at this time and focus on my needs.
So I just wanted to take this moment to gently remind you that whatever emotions you are currently feeling, you have every right to feel them.
If your year didn’t go as planned and you don’t have a highlight reel to share then know you’re not alone. Reflect on the past year, learn from it and look forward.
Know that you don’t need to have the whole of next year mapped out yet.
When you do get round to planning your 2022 goals, make sure they’re coming from the heart. Don’t let anyone else influence your life decisions.
And if you didn’t achieve all your 2021 goals, you are not less worthy.
So in these coming few weeks, please make an extra effort to put yourself and your mental health first.
By taking proper care of your well-being, you are more capable to take on anything that life throws at you. Including easing winter depression and low moods when or if they arise.
What is seasonal depression?
Before I do a deep dive into how you can cope with seasonal depression, let’s first look at what it means.
Seasonal depression, also known as seasonal affective disorder (SAD), is a form of depression that you experience at particular times of the year.
It can affect your mood, emotions and behaviour as well as seriously impact your day-to-day life.
Symptoms of seasonal depression are said to be more severe during winter, and although the direct cause is not fully known, most people link it to a lack of sunlight and shorter days.
Without sufficient sun exposure, your serotonin levels dip affecting your mood, appetite and sleep.
The part of your brain that produces melatonin also fails to work properly.
Melatonin is the hormone that tells you when to sleep. If the body is producing too much melatonin, then this will disrupt your natural circadian rhythm and cause you to feel sleepy even when you don’t need to be.
Symptoms of seasonal depression
It’s important to note that anyone can be affected by seasonal depression or SAD, and it can happen at any time of year (not just in winter).
Yes, the so-called “holiday blues” are also recognised as a form of SAD.
Hopefully, by listing down these symptoms, you can become more aware of whether you also suffer from seasonal depression and learn how to cope with it.
- A persistent low mood during specific seasons
- Feeling irritable, upset, or worthless
- Trouble sleeping or sleeping longer than usual
- Struggling to wake up in the morning or falling asleep at night
- Lack of energy
- Feeling tired or drowsy
- Changes in appetite; either eating less or in other cases craving comfort food and gaining weight
- Losing interest in activities
- Feeling guilty or hopeless
10 ways to cope with seasonal depression and ease low moods during winter
Whether you suffer from seasonal depression, SAD or you just feel low during the winter months, I hope you manage to find comfort with these mindful tips.
1. Switch up your daily routine each season
Switching up your daily routine during winter may be the life hack you need to help you cope with seasonal depression.
When you are in a dark place or have a low mood sometimes sticking to your routine or even following it can feel like a chore.
But it’s important that you keep some form of routine in place as a lack of structure can damage your mental health even more.
Routines are essential for your mental health as they reduce stress, allow you to build healthy habits and help you to avoid burnout.
So instead of struggling with a daily routine that works great in spring and summer, change up your routine to work for you in autumn and winter.
It might be setting your alarm later and delaying certain activities. Or choosing to do your exercise in the morning when it’s light outside rather than in the evening when it is dark outside.
For me, it’s adopting an extra slow morning!
During winter I find it a lot harder to wake up in the mornings. It’s cold, dark and usually miserable. So instead of waking up at 8 am and heading on a walk I stay in bed a little bit longer either reading or watching Whitney Port Reacting to The Hills to ease me into the day.
2. Move your body
I know this sounds like an obvious one but many of us still go a day without moving our bodies. And I don’t mean walking up and down the stairs or walking to the fridge.
Exercise gets your body moving, boosts energy and elevates your mood.
I’m not saying you need to force yourself to the gym and sweat through a 50-mins HIIT class while dreading the entire thing. Instead, be mindful of your movement and choose a light workout that will make you feel better.
It might be morning yoga, a brisk walk, swimming or a mini-home workout.
It doesn’t need to be overly long either.
“Research has found that low-intensity aerobic exercise for 30–35 minutes, 3–5 days a week was best at increasing positive moods.” mentalhealth.org
3. Keep a journal and practice gratitude
If the winter blues are making you feel down then keep a journal and get honest about your feelings.
You’ll find that getting all of your thoughts down on paper will help your mind feel clearer so you can manage your emotions better.
Use your journal to also track your mood and practice gratitude.
Practising gratitude can really help you to feel grounded during challenging times. It allows your mind to focus on and appreciate the more positive things that you have going on in your life.
No matter how small those things might be!
Need help getting started?
Use The Five Minute Journal to help guide you through this daily ritual and become happier in just 5 minutes. Plus you can grab 10% off today with code THALIA10 – all you need to do is simply enter it at the checkout.
4. Take advantage of the daylight and get outside
Blow away the cobwebs by getting outside every day.
No matter how dark and gloomy it might be.
Because fresh air is therapy.
It boosts your energy levels, clears the mind and makes you feel happier.
So make sure you take advantage of the daylight hours and get outside for a short walk or run. You can even wrap up warm, lie down on your back and stare up at the sky watching the clouds go by!
Play a little game and see what you can spot hidden in the clouds.
And if the sun does rear its bright, beautiful head then stop whatever you’re doing, close your eyes and bask in it.
5. Dedicate time to doing your favourite things
Finding joy in life may be at the core of coping with seasonal depression.
The more fun the activities are that you engage in, the more likely it is for you to feel more alive.
So dedicate time to doing things that you love. Indulge in recreational self-care activities that don’t require too much brainpower.
It’s all about stepping away from your to-do list and filling up your day with moments that bring you joy.
Also, try things that make you feel like a kid again! Climbing trees anyone? Jumping in puddles?
Adults tend to take life too seriously. We don’t allow ourselves to be silly and truly let loose and have fun.
So tap into your inner child and get giddy!
6. Eat nourishing, well-balanced meals
Winter depression can push you towards comfort eating where you over-indulge in carbs, chocolate, alcohol and foods high in sugar.
But unfortunately, these delicious foods will make you feel worse in the long run.
Trust me I’ve been there.
This can lead to weight gain and sluggish behaviour ultimately making you feel even worse about yourself than before.
Staying mindful about what you eat is essential. I’m not telling you to completely cut out the carbs or the chocolate because at times they are completely necessary.
But eat in moderation.
Stick to a healthy balanced diet most days and dedicate one day of the week to a “cheat day.”
Get online or open up some cookbooks and find nourishing meals that you can spend time cooking while listening to music.
Not only are you eating well-balanced food but you’re also having fun in the process!
7. Connect and spend time with loved ones
When things aren’t going to plan or our mood dips, our natural instinct as humans is to hide away and cocoon ourselves from the outside world.
But guess what?
Spend time with people who lift you up, and make you laugh. Call a friend and reminisce on younger, happier times. Hug your partner, child or pet. Cook a meal for a loved one and spend time in their company.
It might seem like an effort, but spending time with friends can really boost your mood, make you smile and take your mind off your dark thoughts.
Even if it’s just for an hour.
8. Book a vacation!
Winter in the northern hemisphere can be rather depressing. Days are shorter, it’s colder and weather conditions worsen.
So if you’re craving some winter sun then take a vacation!
Not only will a change of scenery do you the world of good but it will also ignite more creativity into your life. Which is something we all need after a festive season of overwhelm, food, alcohol and triggering family gatherings!
9. Buy a sunrise alarm clock
As I mentioned earlier, a lack of sun exposure has been linked to decreased levels of serotonin, which can lead to depression and anxiety.
Taking Vitamin D supplements are an alternative way to get these benefits but they are not for everyone.
So why not try a sunrise alarm clock instead.
Each morning when it’s time for you to wake up, your sunrise alarm clock gradually brightens the room so you can wake up naturally. You are gently roused from sleep instead of being abruptly woken up by your phone’s alarm clock.
Think of it like “your own personal sunrise!”
Your clock will also have a sunset setting to create a relaxing and calm environment at bedtime to help you fall asleep with ease.
There are many sunrise alarm clocks available which all use light therapy technology specifically for SAD which helps lift your mood.
To find out the best sunrise alarm clocks to help you cope with seasonal depression, check out this blog post.
10. Ask for support
Sometimes coping with seasonal depression can look like talking to a close friend or loved one.
As humans, we are so used to bottling things up as we never want to seem weak or as though we can’t control our emotions.
This ultimately leads to more stress, a bigger burden on our shoulders and darker thoughts.
I, therefore, recommend talking out your problems with someone you can trust to get everything off your chest.
You might even find that they have some useful advice for you.
Or, if you feel as though they won’t understand or you are really struggling then I encourage you to seek professional help.
Asking for help doesn’t make you any less of a person.
Repeat that again.
And support others!
Maybe a friend or someone you know is going through a tough time. Be mindful of their feelings and ask them if they need some company. Maybe take them on a walk or spend a cosy day inside with them.
You can even forward this blog post to them if you think it will benefit them. #sharingiscaring
Save these tips for how to cope with seasonal depression on Pinterest for when you need them most
I would like to point out that I am in no way medically trained on this topic.
This blog post was written with a past experience of winter depression in mind and I share these tips in the hope they will help you in some way.
Whether that is to make you feel less alone, give you support or encourage you to make yourself feel better, even if it’s just for a moment.
Remember, you are not selfish for prioritising your mental health.
Until next week,
♡ Thalia xx
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